Horse Life

Weekend Adventures. Pinch Me.



At the time of this writing (Sunday evening) it has just under 8,000 views. BO and I are by our phones waiting for the movie people to call us up.


Onto the weekend…

So about a week ago I talked about how, despite P being on his best behavior lately, I’ve been falling back into some of my old defensive habits. I think that going from weekly lessons with Trainer B for 7 months to only one since the end of November has just had me regressing a bit. Our flat work has been alright- I’m working on a lot of little things and P is going just fine. But as soon as I point him at a jump, all my confidence goes flying through the window and I end up slow-crawling him to jumps while tipped forward and clenching every muscle in my body. Again. I thought we were past that. Guess not.

Having had some pretty rough times with trainers, I figured I’d stick it out and wait for Trainer B to pop back up. Until this weekend, on the advice of a friend who had made the same journey there for the same reason, when I visited one Tamarack Hill Farm. That’s right. DENNY EMERSON. And me. In the same arena.


Now, if you’re an eventer (or even if you’re not) and you don’t know who he is, I’m sorry, but you should look him up. The guy is impressive. He’s evented for longer than I’ve been alive, and still gets on greenie OTTBs, competes, and rides in 100 mile endurance rides. I’ve followed his FB page for several years and besides one viewpoint that I disagree with, I’m a fan. He posts a lot of “I did this wrong so don’t be like me” advice, along with some badass pictures. And I’m always particularly interested when he posts things about one of his horses, Rosie, who he got as a 4 year old OTTB and who stopped at every single jump.

Maybe there’s hope…

So I figured if there was anyone that wouldn’t do things like jack up a jump and make me jump it on the buckle, or who would make fun of me for wanting to stay at lower heights, it’d be him. At least I really hoped so.


So I emailed the generic email address at the bottom of the page and a few hours later, received an email back from his wife, asking me to call Denny that evening on his cell.


But I called, and we talked for a few and made plans for me to head over there Saturday afternoon and stay through Sunday. Which was a relief, because this is the only weekend I have free until mid March and I really wanted some help ASAP. As long as the rain stayed away.


Saturday morning I scrubbed P head to toe (also did this on Friday, damn mud), cleaned my boots and my tack, packed up my trailer and we drove the 2 hours to Southern Pines.

I set up my trailer, tacked P up, and we headed up to what I hoped was the direction of the arena. Getting closer to the barn, I happened upon a person to whom I asked instructions from. Said person happened to be DARYL KINNEY. Already I loved this place.

So I get to the arena, explain a little bit of our history and the issues we’ve had/have, and he asks me if I can see a distance.


And then he asks me if I have an adjustable canter.


I mean….sometimes I can see where we’re going. And sometimes I can adjust P. That’s good enough, right?


But we worked on it. A lot. Over rails until he proclaimed I do in fact, have a solid “3 stride eye”, and sent me to a jump where I promptly forgot what to do and hung P out to dry.

So we did a bit more, mixing it up between rails and small jumps until P & I were both definitely feeling the effects- P’s not been asked to have such an uphill canter before and I’ve not, ya know, cantered that much. Doh.

But you’re welcome, everyone who follows his Tamarack Hill Farm FB page. Because not even 2 hours after our lesson had ended, he posted this gem. Inspired by yours truly.


And because I was obviously SO terrible, not just one post would do it because this popped up 30 minutes later.


Now, you all wouldn’t have gotten those nuggets of wisdom had I not gone. So I feel like I did his 64,000+ followers a great service and maybe should be compensated for that.


But it all made complete sense and I realize just how little I practice at the canter, even on flatwork days where I specifically work at the canter. It’s not enough. So what to do? He calls it the “hoof print game.”

When I work on adjustability of the canter, here’s what I do: set up a couple rails, maybe 5 strides apart. Go through and see if I can get 3, 4, 6, 7 strides. That’s all well and fine, but it’s not even necessary. He said every time he canters, every time Daryl canters, they play the “hoof print game” where they pick a hoof print (or leaf or pinecone or shadow or whatever fixed object on the ground) and start counting 3 strides out. And they do it over and over, the entire time they’re cantering. He said you’ll miss hundreds of times, then you’ll start to miss less and less. Then you’ll start to automatically adjust the canter to make the 3 strides fit. Then up the ante and do it to small jumps. Then bigger jumps. It’ll take a long time if you do it every day, but it’ll take even longer if you don’t. Total lightbulb moment. So simple (but it’s actually not. It’s actually really hard.).

The next day the original plan was to go out cross country, but I asked instead if we could build more upon the last day. I really wanted to get a solid understanding of what to do to help P’s canter, which tends to get more and more downhill as we go along, before I went home and was back on my own again. So we worked again, this time solely over rails and playing the hoof print game.

One thing I mentioned to him was that it was one thing to go over the rails but as soon as I’d head to a jump, it all went out my head and I froze. And he went into talking about a lyric by the band America that went, “Oz didn’t give nothing to the tin man that he didn’t already have.” And said, “You have a 3 stride eye, you can see the distance, you just don’t believe it. Once you believe it, you’ll own it.”


So that’s my daily homework for the next….forever.

All in all, it was super educational and I’d definitely recommend lessoning with him if you get the chance. He spends a lot of time lecturing, which I enjoyed because he really broke down things that mere mortals like me could understand. I was a little worried that he would be the kind that yelled and belittled when you got it wrong (like a previous trainer I worked with), but nope. Instead he would say, “That’s what practice is for and this is practice,” which took some pressure off. P behaved wonderfully, but I could tell he was a bit tired after 3 solid days of traveling/lessons. So he’ll get tomorrow off, then Tuesday we’ll pick back up with the hoof print game! Because I’ll be damned if I’m going to head to any more jumps just praying.




18 thoughts on “Weekend Adventures. Pinch Me.”

  1. If you could only see how GREEN WITH ENVY I am right now!! Denny does preach about the adjustable canter and seeing a distance a LOT, so I’m not surprised he did that after your lesson. However, I’m so happy to hear he was as kind as he seems on his posts. I too, love Rosie and how slowly and methodically they went with her. I also love how he pulled a horse from the OTTB makeover when he didn’t think she was ready. Can you take more lessons with him please so I can follow along???


    1. I forgot about that but you’re right, he did pull the horse from the makeover! I wasn’t surprised when he asked those questions either, but it was hard to decide how to answer. I’m not terrible, but I’m not consistent either. He’s going back to VT next month so I probably won’t see him again, but it was great to get some fresh eyes on me and some new things to go back and work on!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Congratulations on both things! Denny is phenomenal in person – I used to take my Pony Clubbers down to school with him. Can’t say enough good things about him as an in person, on the ground trainer. That said – I stopped following him on social media some time ago. He does post a lot of thoughtful insights but they always end with the zingers that are in the two FB messages you shared: how most people actually suck and it’s their fault they just can’t hack it. Especially the kids these days. That really bitter edge got to me after a while.

    I’m so glad you’re riding with him, though, and that you had a great weekend! Like I said, an extraordinary teacher in person.


    1. I agree about the zingers- he talked a little about the lack of practicing most do. I know I don’t practice enough but I have one horse and limited time to ride so it is what it is!


      1. We all do the best we can with what we have. For me, there’s a line between pushing people to do their best and making nasty swipes at them when they fall short. The former is how I’ve found him to be as an in-person trainer, the latter is how I’ve found his social media presence.


  3. awesome!!!!!! glad you had a great weekend, even if it sparked Denny to write about it 😉 hahahaha…but that’s a good thing right? Still awesome though and now I’m going to go work on Chimi’s canter….after the rain stops…. eventually.


  4. zomfg you rode with Denny Emerson – I’m a H/J rider and I am jealous, he is definitely one that I would love to audit and eventually ride with! He’s right though about that wonderful canter – I always work on canter stuff to poles because I’m not good at committing to pinecones and shadows lol


  5. What a freaking phenomenal weekend! Holy shit! Huge congrats on the video – though I’m not too surprised 😉 Your video knocked it out of the park, I thought! And riding with DE sounds so awesome. What great take-aways! I love his posts on FB, though definitely do note the bitter edge Amanda did above. Still, he’s such a wealth of freaking information I”ll take what I can get and gloss over the bitterness with rose-colored glasses as much as I can.


  6. first off you won!! DUH but yay! And i may have just watched the video again (and again)! HA let me know when you are a big star so I can get your autograph HA!

    And second what a great weekend you had. Look at you stepping outside your comfort zone (I will be over here under a blanket in a fetal position) HA! Sounds like a great experience.


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